Answering student calls for more healthy dining options on campus, a new fast-food chain specializing in tasty, low-calorie items opened its doors in the D’Angelo Center during a ribbon-cutting that drew cheers from calorie-conscious students, faculty and staff.
Manhattan-based Energy Kitchen chose St. John’s Queens campus as its first location at any college or university, Brij Anand, Vice President for Facilities Services, said at the Grand Opening on January 23. “It’s a perfect fit,” he declared. “St. John’s cares about the well-being of our students, and Energy Kitchen is dedicated to nutritious eating.”
The opening, Anand noted, reflects St. John’s continuing focus on the quality of student life. In a campus-wide survey last spring, students expressed support for more varied and healthy dining options. “We heard our students,” he said, “and we answered.”
“This is awesome,” said Sean DeBiase ‘12CPS, a journalism major who joined fellow students at the ceremony. “I’ve eaten at Energy Kitchen in Manhattan. Their turkey burgers are also top-notch.”
Representatives of the fast-growing chain joined the St. John’s community in the Food Court of the D’Angelo Center. Randy Schechter, Vice President of Energy Kitchen, said the St. John’s opening is part of the chain’s efforts to bring better eating to more Americans. “We’re coming to college campuses,” he said. “I’m glad we’re taking the first step at St. John’s.”
Schechter and Anthony Leone, the company President, founded Energy Kitchen in 2003. According to Inc.com, the chain was among the top 10 most promising franchises in 2011. In 2008, the chain’s founders — all native New Yorkers — became partners with St. John’s alumnus Mike Repole ‘91SVC, a co-founder of Vitaminwater.
At Energy Kitchen, every item on the menu is baked, grilled or steamed. Dishes also are kept to 500 calories or less.
“We’re completely in alignment with the goals of Energy Kitchen concerning healthy eating for students,” said Kathryn Hutchinson, Ph.D., St. John’s Vice President for Student Affairs. “Healthy food is brain food. A college campus is a place where intelligent people should be eating healthfully and developing good habits for the rest of their lives.”
The chain’s opening, she said, was perfectly in line with a wellness agenda the University put in place five years ago. A campus nutritionist is on staff, and students receive a weekly, health-related newsletter on all campuses. The section on nutrition is the most popular.
“With Energy Kitchen,” Hutchinson said, “there’s a synergy we’ve been looking for.”